If you and your spouse have decided to separate or pursue divorce, no doubt you’ve already encountered some highly emotional situations. Going through the divorce process will likely be one of the most emotional times in your life. You will experience a range of emotions and in many ways it may mimic the grieving process. Some common emotions are: shock, numbness, anger, frustration, depression, loneliness and despair. It is important to remember that although your life is changing, you are not alone. As you are going through this difficult time, it is important to turn to family, friends and possibly professional guidance to help you move on and avoid emotional pitfalls.

The Grieving Process: There are different stages of grief when going through a divorce and not everyone experiences them in the same way. Shock or denial is often the first stage in the grieving process. You may not want to admit that your marriage is failing or you may be surprised that your spouse wishes to pursue divorce. During this phase, it is not uncommon for people to cling to the familiar (living together in the same house, maintaining a sexual relationship, continuing family traditions). After you face the reality of your situation, often the next stage brings feelings of anger. You may be angry at your spouse for things they’ve done in the past or the way they are currently acting.

You may also experience frustration with family members or friends who do not understand your decision to divorce. The anger stage can be the most difficult to overcome as you have to work through both anger within yourself and your spouse. Often the next stage involves feelings of ambivalence. You may be tired of fighting and arguing and you just want the divorce to be over. The final stage before you move on to the healing phase may be depression. This depression often comes from internal blame. You may feel like you are alone and focus on your role in the failed marriage. It is not uncommon to bounce back and forth between the anger, ambivalence and depression stages. All of these feelings are completely normal during the divorce process and it can actually be positive to experience them as you heal and move on.

Common Emotional Pitfalls: As emotions are running high during the divorce process, it is important that you avoid making common emotional mistakes along the way. You should always try to remain level-headed and resist the urge to react based upon how you are feeling. If you feel yourself getting to the point where your emotions are getting the better of you, walk away. You should make some time to cool off, take a breather, exercise, talk to a friend, or anything else that may help you calm down. Reacting based on emotions will likely only create more problems during this stressful time. Although it can be extremely tempting, you should refrain from seeking revenge during the divorce process. You may want to “get back at your spouse” for hurt they’ve caused you, but these actions often drag out the divorce and make it more difficult to reach an amicable settlement.

During the ambivalence stage, many people reach a point where they are willing to “give away the farm” in an attempt to finalize the divorce. It is critical to seek guidance from an attorney or a family member/friend who is looking out for your best interest. You may have to live with the terms set forth in the divorce for the rest of your life, so it is important that you don’t agree to anything out of ambivalence or guilt. Seek representation from an experienced family law attorney, especially if your spouse is being represented by an attorney. Always remember that your spouse’s attorney is representing your spouse and does not have your best interest in mind. If your spouse has hired a lawyer, you should not speak to his or her attorney and would be best advised to seek your own representation.

There is no doubt that the divorce process places emotional stress on both parties. It is best to surround yourself with loved ones during this time so you have someone on which to lean during particularly emotional times. There may also be a need to seek professional help from a counselor, attorney or both. Your divorce doesn’t have to define you and the rest of your life. It is important to make sure you make the best choices for your emotional health so you can move beyond and on to a new chapter in your life.